somewhere between e and i
yew as the tree of life and death – the world-tree, Yggdrasill.
|Germanic||Gothic||Old English||Old Norse|
|eihwaz or iwaz||eihwas||éoh or eow||ihwar|
|yew tree||yew tree||yew tree, or mountain ash||yew (in runic inscriptions only)|
Vertical cosmic axis, Numinous initiation, Life/death, Endurance, Protection.
- Initiation into the wisdom of the World-Tree.
- Realization of the death/life mystery and liberation from the fear of death.
- Development of spiritual endurance and hard will.
- Spiritual creativity and vision.
- Protection from detrimental forces.
- General increase in personal power.
- Communication between levels of reality-the worlds of Yggdrasill.
- Memories of former existences in the ancestral stream.
Eihwaz is the vertical axis of the world that defines the central column of Yggdrasill, the cosmic tree. The world-tree of the ancient Norse was in most cases actually symbolized by a yew tree, not an ash as often supposed. This idea is supported by the old texts, which always refer to its “evergreen” quality and its needles-the yew is a conifer. An alternate name for the yew in Old Norse is also barraskr (needle ash). The word Yggdrasill means either “Yggr’s (Ódhinn’s) steed,” or “yew-column.” The former meaning is a direct reference to the shamanistic ritual in the “Hávamál.” The gallows often are poetically described as the “horse of the hanged” in Old Norse. This is the rite by which the erilaz fares to Hel (the realm of the dead, or underworld) and thence to all Nine Worlds to gain their wisdom. This is accomplished along the vertical dimension of the multiverse. The : ᛇ : defines this “numinous axis” that pierces through and connects the three realms of heaven, earth, and the underworld. A similar, but distinct function is performed by the T-rune. There the emphasis is on separation; here, on communication.
This rune contains the mystery of life and death and mystically unifies them in its essence. The yew (Tarus baccata) contains an alkaloid toxin that affects the central nervous system. Prepared properly, this is a powerful hallucinogen. A certain professor of medicine named Kukowka, at the University of Greiz in East Germany, discovered that on warm days the yew emits a gaseous toxin that lingers in the shade of the tree and may cause hallucinations for an individual under its branches. The importance of this discovery in the study of the shamanistic character of the Yggdrasill initiation should not be lost. Besides its association with death, the yew tree is also a symbol of eternal life and endurance. This is because of its “evergreen” nature and because it is an extremely longlived (up to two thousand years) and hardy tree with exceptionally hard wood. The yew is often found in the old church graveyards of Europe – former sites of Ásatnú temples.
Eihwaz is a life-giving force and the mode by which that force is sustained.
In the younger row, this rune is represented by : ᛦ : (ON ýr) sometimes meaning “bow made of yew wood.” This is because bows often were fashioned from the hard resilient yew wood, and because of the connection of the “Bow God,” Ullr, with the mystery of the yew. Ullr is the archaic death god who rules the season of Yule.
The yew is also a powerful stave of protection and banishing. (See also the form : ᛉ : and its connections in this regard.) Even today in certain parts of Germany the magical saying: “Vor den Eiben kann kein Zauber bleiben (before the yews, no (evil) magic can remain) may be heard. We also have a preserved runic talisman that is an example of “yew magic.” This is found on the stave of Britsum, carved in yew wood sometime between 500 and 650 C.E. In the Frisian dialect, its inscription is interpreted as “Always carry this yew! Strength is contained in it!”